This Mother’s Day, I want to tell the story of how one woman has handed down her passion for life and work from one generation to the next. And what better way than through the lens of the relationship between me and my mum, the sculptor Michèle Deiters?
The #mymotherXmymuse campaign celebrates just how inspirational my mum has been to me. How she led me to choose an artist’s path. How to me, she’s an icon.
Read on for Michèle’s take on motherhood, family, and creativity.
Could you describe your process of working together with Bibi?
Working together there is no hierarchy. There is two united as one, to conceptualize the bridge of a generation void by creating contemporary but timeless work. I learn a lot from Bibi, her endless inspiration and her boundless energy. That always surprises me again. And it’s funny, she has a continuous fight with time, and she always had it from very young...it’s like an obsession. Because she was always afraid she wouldn’t be able to meet her potential when she was young. Well she has proven herself over and over again. Our primal link blends our different backgrounds. And it’s very funny because a sort of magic comes out of it. We accept each other’s views and I don’t ever feel a need to hold back when expressing my opinion. There is a foundation of trust that means that we never have to compromise, so that makes it really wonderful.
What do you learn from each other?
Well, it’s funny because she has an enormous, insatiable hunger for achievement and expressing her creativity. And I must admit that when we started off you know, at her age, I had much less of an ambition than she had. But that grew of course. And as an artist I needed to sort of flow into it, if you know what I mean. Whereas with Bibi I feel such an intuitive connection. Our rhythms, which are so different of course, our inspirations and patterns are so effortlessly complementary I would say. And she learns from me that I live more in Kairos time. As a mother and daughter, we trust each other. Because Bibi is more conceptual, I’m more traditional, we bring a different energy into the work. For Bibi there’s absolutely no limits at all. If she has an idea, and I think, “oh, my heavens,” she is able to in actual fact conceive it, not only to have the actual idea but to bring it in to work, if you know what I mean. And I love to see her boundless energy and her boundless creativity, and she likes my craftsmanship, you know. Bibi is more in Kronos time, and I’m in Kairos time. I’m very much an artisan and I love the handling and carving of stone, that’s basically how we are able to complement each other.
And once you start working together...in 2005 we always worked together because she was in art school, I helped her, she helped me with my moulds, to restore them and do things. When she was much younger. Then in 2005, one of her friends, who is a great art collector, and had already some pieces of my work, said “I would like you two to work with four hands on the same piece, and see what happens.” And it was only then that we found we were able to give each other every time a sort of little shove up, you know what I mean? So we would be busy and I would say, “listen, listen to this,” and Bibi would say, “oh yes absolutely,” and would pick it up and vice versa. It was really magic, the merging was really quite something. Because as an artist you’re always working on your own. And in this case to be able to share was, it was fantastic, it really was something else. Totally, new and unique, that’s a very good way of putting it.
How does your self as a mother relate to who you are as an artist?
Working together with Bibi, there is no difference. So I am not in a mother role while working together at all. I think being an artist and being a mother is part of what makes me. I am an artist and I am a mother. One problem, it comes later in one of your questions, is as a mother you have the disadvantage in a sense, in that your motherhood always is prioritised. So as soon as there is something within your family that takes priority. And that makes it sometimes difficult as an artist. But being an artist is not something that you like clothes put on and off. It’s part of you. It’s the way you see life, you know what I mean? So as I said I am an artist and a mother, but being a mother conflicts at times with being an artist. Completely. And because we have this foundation of trust, there is absolutely, it is quite reckless I have to admit. Because I’ve spoken to so many people and they say, “you know, to be able to be the way you two work is quite rare.” And it doesn’t happen that often, you know. We complete one another, automatically complementing and fusing our energies. Somebody once said to us, working together gives a new meaning, the way we work together gives a new meaning to the words working together. Because we literally work together. We literally use our four hands for the same pieces we make. Fusing yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, of course the time is limited. Bibi being a very successful jewellery designer, and having to travel the world and also having a family at the same time, our time is more limited than when we set out working together.
Do you see the influence of sculpture in Bibi’s jewellery?
I find her work very sculptural, her jewellery, and also some things she makes are very much inspired by the things we have made together. One of the things was the ring in which she incorporated the head, which was very beautiful. But of course she made more things especially inspired by me. One is for instance, she had this beautiful big pearl, a very rare pearl. She made these three lions encrusted in diamonds on that pearl, which symbolises my three children. And she made a little necklace with mammoth tooth eggs of all the children and the grandchildren with a tiny little nameplate on the back with their names on it. That sort of thing. And also what she used to do, and I have quite a few of those, are memory bunches. So she would get jewellery from my mother and she would make these lovely things that you put on a chain. Otherwise I wouldn’t wear it, I wouldn’t use it. But she made something with it that made it so special.
What did your own mother pass on to you?
It’s a funny question because many people ask from which side of the family did you get your creativity? And I think both my parents were creative, but in that day and age that was not something that you really pursued. You might write beautiful diaries and do drawings in it. But it was not something which was conceived as...and my mother was a psychologist. But she inspired in me so many facets of life you know. One of your questions was how important...the most important values your own mother handed down to you. And I think that’s also part of being creative, you know. Interest in other people, and also dealing with adversity in life and a strong responsibility towards the people you love and who depend on you. Certainly, she inspired so much in me. The way you look at nature, the way you look at architecture. Yeah, I mean it’s all part of your make-up.
The link to nature relates to Bibi’s jewellery, too?
Initially it was very much based on nature, completely. And it has evolved, of course it evolves it all the time.
How important is it for you to have your art as a form of expression?
It is quite vital [having art as a form of expression.] You can express it in many different ways. It doesn’t need always to be completed into a sculpture or a drawing or whatever. But it can be in creating a house, in creating a garden. Your creativity towards other people. But it is vital for me. And also periods when I don’t work, when I work very little because I’m travelling or whatever, there is a stop in my flow of creativity, it’s very funny. It needs to be fed by working. And again it doesn’t always need to be that I’m working on a piece. Like I said, there’s so many forms of creativity. But it is for me a vital part of my life, absolutely.
What does being a mother mean to you?
Being a mother is for me a very natural thing. I would describe myself as a purely primal mother with primal instincts. I have enjoyed motherhood always tremendously, and consequently I love and enjoy grandmother-hood. I think if I encapsulate in a couple of words it’s a completely natural thing for me, and it’s very important. I don’t know if you want me to elaborate on it, because it has of course so many facets. And it is not always joyful, everything. Motherhood in itself is, but the goods and the bads which come with it of course are not always.
Do you see similarities in how Bibi is with her children, or do you think everyone does things their own way?
I think everyone does things their own way. Bibi as I said, from a very young age, she has always been very afraid of not reaching her potential. And always afraid that she has time too little. I think there is definitely a difference, but then she leads a completely different life from the life which I led when I was her age and a mother. Mind you, I was working. But I didn’t have that amount of pressure she has. And I stood for that myself, you know I could have easily done that to myself. But that was something I didn’t want to do to myself, to have that constant, constant, constant pressure.
How does wearing Bibi’s jewellery make you feel?
It’s very funny, I feel very flattered by it, but she does see me as her muse. I do love wearing her jewellery. It makes me feel beautiful, special, you know what I mean. Very often her pieces seem to be, they are not always, but they seem to have been made for me. It really does make me feel quite extraordinary, and I remember in the very beginning when she was still making every single piece by hand, I would feel practically envious if somebody would buy her jewellery. I thought “oh my god,” thank god that’s a long time ago! And I had seen the incredible effort which went into it and the care, but thank god that has passed! That phase.
Do you talk about the collections together?
We do talk of course we talk. But she nowadays has to completely withdraw from the world. And that’s what she does, a couple of times a year, for nearly two weeks she’s totally immersed in her creations, creating new lines, it takes up a lot of her energy. On one hand, on the other hand if she can withdraw and do it it also gives her a lot of energy. But it’s a must for her to take her time by herself and create. But we do talk of course, I’m always very interested to hear...and we are at the moment working on a new body of work together, sculpting, which hopefully by next year or the end of this year, but maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but and that’s purely, purely autobiographical. So we have been building up a DNA of our family, of ourselves, there are many similarities in our lives, and we have been elaborating on that in our work. And that will all come out, once you see it, when it’s finished. It’s sculptures, it’s installations, but it’s also drawing, embroidering, glass blowing. Many different paths in order to create what we feel like represents our families and our lives, especially. It’s extraordinary how we found out that not only mother daughter working together as artists, but also that there were many similarities in our lives. Not all, I am not saying they are all wonderful, some were really tough. But that’s where we are confronting them and that makes it for us a really fantastic process.
Where will you exhibit it?
It depends a little bit on how big the body of work is by the time we are finished. That is quite important. Maybe we will start not in Holland, we have to see. We keep you posted.